Former Deputy Commander Rod Ashlin from Mooloolaba Coastguard keeping people safe on the waterways.
Former Deputy Commander Rod Ashlin from Mooloolaba Coastguard keeping people safe on the waterways. Warren Lynam

Dedicated rescuers set to walk over 'toxic hierarchy'

FOR 25 years Coastguard Mooloolaba has worked around the clock to protect boaties but the volunteers are now prepared to quit over what they call a "bullying hierarchy".

Their Parkyn Parade base is manned 24-hours a day, seven-days a week and 365-days a year and one of the largest in the country.

They track vessels from Moreton Bay to Hervey Bay and communicate with fellow bases, north and south and assist when asked.

The self-funded organisation stays afloat through raffles and sausage sizzles but the governing body - the Australian Volunteer Coastguard Association of Australia (AVCGA) - wants them to change vessel logging systems, despite their current one "working perfectly".

Come April 1, Coastguard Mooloolaba volunteers say they will be forced into complying against their will to a "my way or the highway" policy.

 

"It's their way or the highway and they're forcing us to change," treasurer Peter Wollerman told The Daily hours before he was due to start a 12-hour night shift.

"We do this because we love it but we don't need to be treated with callous disregard.

"We are all volunteers and wouldn't be here if we didn't care. But it is wearing thin."

Mr Wollerman referred The Daily to a Blue Water Review report by retired commodore Campbell Darvy, which said a "toxic environment had been allowed to flourish" at the AVCGA.

Former deputy commander Rod Ashlin said last year the coastguard was called to assist in 155 rescues, ranging from a 60-tonne vessel 60 nautical miles offshore, to a jetski 200 yards away.

The group of 160-strong are predominantly retirees who do it for the love of it, and the camaraderie and mateship attached.

Mr Wollerman, an ex-lawyer has tried to use the new program which they've been told is a stable requirement under new regulations but is unable to make head or tail of a system.

Neither can any of his comrades.

These are former engineers, army or air force personnel and small businessmen, intelligent people finding it difficult to adapt with technology.

They argue, "if it ain't broke, why fix it?"

"No one knows how to use it, or make sense of it. And no training has been provided," Mr Wollerman said.

"They claim it is being used throughout the country but no one who does is the same size.

"We are blue water rescue. Yachts, fishing trawlers and boaties of all kinds.

"We know what we are doing and do it well."

Senior officer and radio crewman Peter McAndrew said the current system in place worked "seamlessly".

"One of our crew designed an electronic system so that we can monitor everything and if they run into trouble we can trigger a search," Mr McAndrew said.

"Anyone from Moreton Bay to Hervey Bay can be tracked by us and if they get into strife we can assist or provide contact to nearby unit to assist.

"We all know how to use this system and are all trained accordingly."

A sample of Coastguard Mooloolaba's role in the community

  • Help stranded trawlers, vessels and boaties in Sunshine Coast waters
  • Assist Queensland Water Police
  • Execute medical transfers from cruise liners
  • Rely on fundraisers and community grants

Senior officers Ian Hartshorn and Jon Welch said they had both suffered emotionally from the dealings with the national organisation and too, are prepared to abandon ship.

Several members of the Coastguard expressed their views and simply wish to wait until the outcome of a Queensland Government review currently in place is complete.

Simply maintain the status quo until completion of the review.

 

Former deputy commander Rod Ashlin from Mooloolaba Coastguard keeping people safe on the waterways.
Former deputy commander Rod Ashlin from Mooloolaba Coastguard keeping people safe on the waterways. Warren Lynam

Volunteer Coastguard Australia national commodore Ray Campbell said the situation was "unfortunate".

"They're a group of individuals who don't like rules and regulations," Mr Campbell said.

"This organisation is run by a national board and Mooloolaba have representatives on the board.

"They use a communications and tracking system developed inside their organisation. We developed our own and they don't want to comply.

"Unfortunately some people don't want to do what is required."

Mr Campbell would not comment further.

Several attempts were made to contact deputy national commodore Peter Smith.



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